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A cataract is when the natural lens within your eye becomes cloudy affecting the way light enters the eye, in turn blurring your vision. Symptoms of cataract can vary but include:
Find out more about cataract surgery in this short video from Dr Andrew Tatham:
What causes cataracts?
Cataracts are very much part of the normal ageing process but can develop earlier in some cases. Some of the causes of cataracts include:
The exact cause of cataracts is not fully understood but other factors believed to also cause them, include exposure to ultraviolet, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and poor diet.
How do you treat cataracts?
To treat cataracts, surgery is the only option. Once your symptoms are sufficiently significant the cloudy lens material is removed and a lens implant is inserted in its place.
By far the most common technique to do this is Phacoemulsification. This type of surgery is carried out as a day procedure and normally under Local Anaesthesia though you may request some sedation or even a general anaesthetic if required.
When should you have cataract surgery?
It is commonly advised to consider cataract surgery when your symptoms start to affect your daily activities, including:
Cataracts continue to develop with time, meaning that your vision will get worse if left untreated.
What happens during cataract surgery?
Once your eye is anaesthetised the surgeon will make a very small incision in the cornea (the clear window at the front of your eye). A small probe is inserted through the small incision and emits ultrasound waves to break up the cloudy lens. The lens material is turned to liquid and is gently sucked out through a tube.
Once finished the surgeon will inject in a folded up lens implant which will position itself nicely where the old lens once was. In most cases no stitches are required and the wounds heal by themselves.
What other treatment options are available when having cataract surgery?
Along with removing the cloudy lens, cataract surgery is likely to be a great opportunity to correct or reduce any prescriptions of short sight, long sight and/or astigmatism. Your Surgeon will discuss the options that are available to you, allowing you to choose the best fit for your lifestyle.
Intraocular Lenses (IOLs) can be used in place of the cloudy cataract lens during surgery. The lenses aim to give you sharp vision, assuming your eyes are in otherwise good health.
Regardless of which IOL you choose the surgery itself is almost identical but the lens technologies can vary significantly.
What types of Intraocular Lenses can be used?
Multifocal /Trifocal /Extended Range IOLs
Are there any side effects to cataract surgery?
You will be able to go home the same day, with the whole appointment lasting around 3 hours
Depending on the type of anaesthetic used the feeling should return to your eye(s) within a few hours of the surgery. However, it can take some days for your vision to start to improve.
On discharge your nurse will go through signs and symptoms of potential problems and how to seek help for them Normal post-surgical symptoms include:
What can affect the results of cataract surgery?
Although a very straightforward and safe procedure there are some small risks of potential complications. These can vary between patients and will explained in detail at your appointment, allowing you to weigh up the pros and cons of cataract surgery before making your decision. Some factors which could affect your results include:
What happens after cataract surgery?
Your nurse will go through a thorough discharge pack with you before you go home. Emergency phone numbers will be issued just in case you have any problems afterwards and your nurse will explain what symptoms to look out for and when to seek help.
You will go home wearing an eye shield or eye pad which you should leave on until the following morning. It may be advised to replace the shield at bedtime for the first week. Your nurse will explain how to remove and bathe your eye each morning.
What should I do and what can’t I do after cataract surgery?